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Gamefam’s Report Reveals Who Is Winning the Metaverse Game

Gamefam, a leading American game developer and strategist, has released its first State of Brands in Metaverse Gaming end-of-year report looking at how successful brands were in their crossover into the digital space.

This year Gamefam reported more than 7.5 billion gameplay sessions in 2023 across its portfolio of 30 games owned and operated network and exceeding 29 billion gameplay sessions to date. Tapping into the cultural zeitgeist, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, the NFL, Warner Music Group, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, Netflix’s Unicorn Academy, Netflix’s Bakugan and more all joined in on the gaming action by working with Gamefam for Roblox and Fortnite integrations. The company reported that in 2023, Roblox and Fortnite are the top game brands used by brands to help engage with Generation Z and Generation Alpha.

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A June 2022 report by McKinsey predicts that more than 50 percent of live events could be held in the metaverse. To that end, the NFL and Warner Music Group worked with Gamefam to create its inaugural Super Bowl concert in the metaverse starring popular American rapper Saweetie — making it the number-one rated Roblox concert of all time.

One major takeaway? While every brand needs a metaverse strategy, brands don’t need to create a stand-alone game. Brands can reach millions of engaged players in already popular games with an existing player base for authentic and engaging brand integrations.

The importance of virtual merchandise for game avatars has never been more present. This year, Gamefam created jewelry, apparel, hair and more, with 2.3 million virtual merchandise items sold; McKinsey reported found that 79 percent of consumers actively partaking in the metaverse have made a purchase.

Joe Ferencz, chief executive officer and founder of Gamefam, sat down to chat with WWD to summarize brands’ metaverse year in review and how gaming will continue to grow in the fashion, retail and beauty space for 2024 and beyond.

WWD: Why was the industry seeing so many brands such as Puma, Hugo Boss, Fenty Beauty and E.l.f. Cosmetics get involved with the metaverse and gaming universe in 2023?

Joe Ferencz: These platforms have real, meaningful engagement with users that can’t be replicated on places like TikTok or YouTube. It’s the difference between actively being involved in something versus passively watching. It’s social, it’s experiencing brands in a social sphere like consumers do in real life. Between active engagement and the social imprint, it’s a better way to advertise.

In 2023, Roblox and Fortnite emerged as the preferred platforms of choice for Gen Z and Gen Alpha. Users spend 43 percent more time on these two metaverse platforms than YouTube and TikTok combined. These groups are critical for brands to connect with right now. Not only is it a better way to advertise, it’s also a better place to advertise.

Platforms such as Roblox and Fortnite have the potential to be more than glorified brand billboards, especially for fashion brands who can quickly offer digital apparel to generate both consumer demand and intrigue.

WWD: How has this evolved?

J.F.: While platform growth has continued steadily in recent years, the real change came in the expansion of branded experiences launched on Roblox, which saw a 50 percent increase year-over-year. In 2023, Roblox alone saw a staggering 1.8 billion visits to branded games, across more than 240 executions. But there is a power curve, and I’m proud to share that Gamefam’s productions account for an outsize proportion of the top branded games, concerts and integrations.

As these games continue to increase in popularity, 2024 is shaping up to be a year of moving past the proving phase, especially considering the investment Roblox and Fortnite are making in their developer and advertising tools. This will result in brands to build amazing experiences, integrations and connections.

<a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Barbie;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Barbie</a> DreamHouse Tycoon game.
Barbie DreamHouse Tycoon game.

WWD: What are some learnings in the past few years? 

J.F.: There is a real value generated for brands from the active engagement of playing Roblox and Fortnite versus the passive engagement of watching TV commercials or TikTok videos. Additionally, we’ve seen several activations face significant challenges in gaining attention because brands didn’t understand how to authentically integrate with the Roblox and Fortnite communities.

If there is no engagement, there is no audience. You can’t really “buy airtime,” you have to earn it here. We focus on educating our brand partners on exactly how they can fit into the broader ecosystem and build reward systems into our games to make sure players enjoy and return to those brands.

WWD: What are some of the key factors that make a gaming partnership and campaign successful? How do you measure ROI?

J.F.: Being authentic and enhancing the gameplay experience are the most important traits for brand success. A good example of this is our work with the NFL and the subsequent Boss integration. To kick off the 2023-24 season, the NFL partnered with Boss on a line of real-life sweatshirts. We created limited amounts of user-generated content for the six teams playing during kickoff weekend and players had to complete mini games to earn the items.

Romonitor is a great resource for experience analytics on Roblox and anyone can access it to understand how games and experience are performing.

One specific measurement process to help our partners on Roblox is 3D telemetry. From movement to purchasing, to how long a player looks at an item before buying it — it offers us an unprecedented level of knowledge. With 3D telemetry, we can offer the depth of experiential marketing with the reach of digital, and the data streams are interesting and exciting for brand marketers.

Boss/NFL digital sweatshirt hoodies for Roblox player’s avatars.
Boss/NFL digital sweatshirt hoodies for Roblox player’s avatars.

WWD: What’s an example of a brand that successfully used gaming to grow its audience?  

J.F.: The Boss event within Super NFL Tycoon led to a 145 percent increase in visits to the game over the NFL season kickoff weekend from Friday to Sunday versus the previous three-day average. It also doubled peak concurrent players over kickoff weekend, and the initial limited run of digital hoodies in the Boss/NFL collection was earned by players entirely in 24 hours, which shows a real appetite and affinity for the Boss brand among Roblox players.

In a year where people can’t get enough of Barbie, 272 million fashion items have been used to customize player avatars since launch. We created custom in-game avatar fashion items ranging from accessories, jewelry, makeup and even hearing aids to allow players to become their own Barbie through their avatar as they roleplayed in Barbie DreamHouse Tycoon.

As part of the rollout of her Christmas album, Cher started a four-week integration into Warner Music Group’s Harmony Hills world in Roblox on Dec. 8 and released four digital fashion items and her iconic winter crown was available on the first day, fully redeemed for only 24 hours.

WWD: What is the future of the crossover between fashion/retail and gaming as we look ahead into 2024 and beyond?

J.F.: Gaming continues to become the most popular form of entertainment content for today’s youngest consumers, and brands are looking to build connections in the games their target audiences spend time playing.

As part of our Boss branded merchandising activation, we minted a limited run of 30,000 hoodies in Super NFL Tycoon. They were fully redeemed, generating hype much like a real-life exclusive clothing capsule drop. According to McKinsey, global spending on the metaverse collectively is projected to top more than $5 trillion by 2030. This offers a widespread opportunity for retailers looking to capitalize on an enormous, young market of digital natives who will be the primary source of purchasing power in the coming decades.

Specific to Fortnite, creative mode’s rise since 2022 has been big for developers and iconic brands, including household names like Coachella and Nike. With massive new expansions to the core game of Fortnite Lego and Rocket Racing, with more coming, there is major potential for fashion and beauty brands to be present and drive real impact.

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